In a shift of ownership among water-soluble film companies, MonoSol LLC has purchased a British blown extrusion film plant from Aquafilm LLC. The deal was made just before Aquafilm was sold to an English film producer.
MonoSol bought Aquafilm's Hartlebury, England, plant, in a sale announced April 13 for undisclosed terms. The purchase gives Portage, Ind.-based MonoSol its first European presence and allows the company to broaden its processing expertise to include both cast and blown extrusion film, said MonoSol Chief Executive Officer P. Scott Bening on April 15.
``In some [water-soluble] applications, blown film is more cost-effective and easier to manufacture than is cast film,'' Bening said. ``Now, we have the ability to go to any company we work with and offer both types of technology. We don't have to just force-feed cast film to them.''
The 150,000-square-foot Hartlebury plant produces film made from polyvinyl alcohol that can dissolve over time. The film is used for consumer applications, including gel packs that hold dishwasher and laundry detergent, and for laundry bags at health-care facilities.
Those bags are used to transport infected or soiled linens, protecting them from human contact before the bags dissolve in a washing machine. Tampa, Fla-based Aquafilm, a leading maker of edible films for breath fresheners, had run the facility under its Aquafilm Ltd. unit.
The film also is used for solid-surface fabrication of marble and for vacuum bags used to make fiber-reinforced plastic.
MonoSol is negotiating to purchase a 100,000-square-foot building across the street from the Hartlebury plant, Bening said. The company would like to move cast-film equipment to that site to serve European customers, he said. The company also will consider making laundry bags from cast film, a more flexible process for specialty uses than blown film, he added.
About 40 percent of the company's cast film now is exported to Europe, said MonoSol director of new business development Christian Rath. The new plant has about 50 workers, bringing the company total to more than 200 and sales to about $50 million annually, Bening said.
Conversely, the company wants to bring blown film to its Portage plant, near Gary, Ind., Bening said. The company is considering equipment purchases and the transfer of existing machinery, he said.
MonoSol had sold its laundry-bag assets to Aquafilm, including customer lists, in late 2003. But with an ownership change at Aquafilm, MonoSol has re-entered that niche market.
MonoSol has been busy lately. In January, the company purchased the assets of Kosmos Pharma Ltd., a developer and formulator of film used for oral drug delivery. The company, based in Great Falls, Va., formed a new venture with MonoSol called MonoSolRx to commercialize the development of oral film strips for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets.
The cast film will allow the dispensing of vitamins, nutrients and medicines orally through an edible strip, Bening said. The company is working with several large customers to launch the products in North America, he said.
``We have manufacturing, and they had the intellectual property,'' Bening said. ``This has been in serious development for a couple of years.''
Aquafilm, a MonoSol competitor in water-soluble film that was founded in 2000, has made some major internal changes. On March 31, the company was purchased by BioProgress plc, a provider of oral-dosage film for the pharmaceutical market. BioProgress, based in March, England, paid $11 million to buy the assets of Aquafilm's Tampa film production, converting and packaging facility.
The Tampa company has changed its name to BioFilm LLC but has a similar mission as MonoSolRx: to produce soluble films for nutritional and food products.
BioProgress, listed on the London Stock Exchange and a maker of other biodegradable films, has the resources to help the company grow to $50 million annually by 2006, said Aquafilm Chief Executive Officer Angel Oliva in a written statement.
The company is investing $3 million this year to upgrade the Florida plant and bring it up to current pharmaceutical standards, the release said. BioFilm officials could not be reached for comment before deadline.
MonoSol, with the former Aquafilm plant in England as a contributor, has similar expectations for growth in the water-soluble market, an industry that is still in its infancy, Bening said.
``We've expanded our horizons a great deal,'' he said.